I’m talking about potty training. Literally and figuratively. I am going to come clean and confess that there are many things that I find rather distasteful about parenting. Cleaning up vomit at 2 is am one. Having my daughter drool into my coffee is another. Being licked across the face like a dog lover, smelling poo and realizing it’s smeared across my arm, sitting on the toilet with two children on my lap: it’s all on the list. But seriously, considering all the disgusting, invasive and unsanitary moments children bring into our lives, the worst has got to be potty training. Because not only am I keenly aware of the bladder and bowel habits of my children, it’s causing me to lose all sense of public decency.
When I thought about being a mother, I envisioned chubby arms wrapped around my neck, the sweet smell of a freshly washed toddler wafting under my nose. What I did not envision was this: me, in a bathing suit, dripping wet and freezing cold, running through the gym locker room with a child under my arms, screaming, “Hold it! Hold it! Shut your bottom!” No, that was not a scene I had imagined for my future.
In case you were wondering, she was unable to shut her bottom. Thank God for Little Swimmers, eh?
And if that scene isn’t bad enough, the poor woman drying her hair was forced to witness a second round of a frantic dash to the toilet, because what one does, so must the other. No time to worry about my flabby thighs or the fact that my skin hasn’t seen sunlight in the 6 years since we moved to London. The only thought in my head was this: my child needs a toilet.
When is the right time to potty train? For me, it’s the ability to recognize the physical need, interrupt whatever fun time she’s having, and hold it long enough to find a suitable location to relieve herself. There also has to be an element of desire because forcing potty training on a child is like drawing a battle line in the sand. A battle you will lose. The power of a toddler to retain stool and develop constipation bad enough to require hospitalization or months of medication is a wondrous power indeed.
Once all the pieces have pulled together, usually between ages 2 and 3, you’ve got no choice but to go with it. An expectation of success, with the occasional understandable failure, is another huge motivator for a kid who has finally decided to move on to big girl pants. The girls wanted it. They earned their stickers, they kept their Pull-Ups dry, they picked out their underwear. And I’m very proud of them.
But that doesn’t mean parenting the newly toilet trained isn’t a pain in the you-know-what. Gone are the days of saying, “Gosh, we’d better find a place to change your diaper.” And instead are moments of total public humiliation. I’m sure the other diners didn’t really need to know that both girls pooped in the potty in the restaurant on Sunday. Anymore than the entire doctor’s conference room needed to hear me scream, “You did? You made a tinkle on the potty?”
Anyway, the problem with loving your children is that you’ll do anything for them, climb any mountain to help your children succeed. And if that means tossing your pride and sense of public decency aside, so be it. But seriously, that lady at the gym, well, don’t you think she could have mentioned the other facilities the first time she witnessed that horror?